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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bobby Fisher: Grand Master, Iconoclast and Legend

Bobby Fisher the recluse Chess Master died in Reykjavik, Iceland reportedly of kidney failure on January 17, 2008.

Born in Chicago, March 9, 1943, and raised in Brooklyn, he was a child prodigy and became the youngest US Grandmaster.

In his matches with Boris Spassky, the Russian Chess Champion in 1972, he became the Cold War's lone ranger. Bobby Fischer took on individuals, federations and countries. He was responsible for the surge in chess popularity not only in the US, but all over the world.

In his single minded vision, or obsession, nothing could and nothing did stood in the way. The opposition to his vision and the opponent sitting across had to be conquered and vanquished.

Noted French chess expert Olivier Tridon: "Bobby Fischer has died at age 64. Like the 64 squares of a chess board."

In another bit of symmetry, his death occurred in the city where he had his greatest triumph - the historic encounter with Spassky.
The Soviet Chess Federation had been accused of maneuvering and dominating the International/World Chess Federation. In those days the totalitarian state used every means of its propaganda fight in the bi polar world. Fisher rallied and single mindedly exposed their dirty tricks.

He won the match against Spassky that made him a multi millionaire but he became delusional soon after.

He raged against the Jews, though his mother was Jewish, and - as released FBI documents later showed - his biological father probably was Jewish too.

His anti-communism transmuted into a rabid anti-Americanism. America, he said after the 11 September 2001 attacks, had got what it deserved.

He lived, breathed and exhaled chess in which he excelled. But his views on other subjects came under scrutiny and derision. His mother was Jewish and according to some reports even his father had some Jewish blood. But despite that he raged against the Jews and against the US policies.

"He was the pride and sorrow of chess," said Raymond Keene, a British grandmaster and chess correspondent for The Times of London. "It's tragic that such a great man descended into madness and anti-Semitism."

Bobby Fischer almost disappeared from the radar after winning the World Championship in 1972. He maintained a low profile and became a near recluse. He emerged for an exhibition match with Boris Spassky in Yugoslavis in 1992, defying a US ban for which he was wanted in the US. In 2002, Fischer was arrested At Narita Airport, Japan with an expired US passport and spent nine months in the jail there. Bobby Fischer denounced his US citizenship and Iceland offered him a citizenship and he moved there.

Helgi Olafsson, an Icelandic chess grand master, was quoted by the newspaper as saying Fischer had told him he wanted to take part in one last tournament.

Morgunbladid reported that Anand and Olafsson had exchanged e-mails about the proposed match and that Fischer had firm ideas on the arrangements.

The ex-champion wanted to play the contest using the Fischerrandom or Chess 960 method, in which the game begins with pieces arranged randomly on the board to make the match more difficult.

Some of his most notables games were the Game of the Century, Byrne-Fisher (1963-64 US Championship), Petrosian-Fisher Buenos Aires (1971) and Fisher-Spassky (1972) sixth game.

Fischer is known to have never married but few know he had fathered a child in the Phillipines.

Fischer played tennis at the Baguio Country Club and had a romance with a 30-year-old woman from Davao named Marilyn Young in Baguio City before he went on exile to Iceland.

Fischer’s certified Filipino heir, 7-year-old Jinky, was born in 2002 at the Saint Louis University Sacred Heart Hospital here.

The girl’s birth certificate bears the name “Robert James Fischer” as her father, but she kept her mother’s maiden name, “Young.”

Like other genii he was a flawed genius. He lived life on his terms: winning some matches and losing some. He died January 17, 2007 defiant and un-checkmated.


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